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Irvine Lake fishing trout season opener

October 28, 2010 | 12:41 pm


Veteran angler Steve Carson, whose weekly Irvine Lake fishing reports run in Outposts, shares some tips and tactics for the lake's Nov. 5 trout-season opener:

Some 20,000 pounds of trout will be planted in Irvine Lake just before the upcoming trout-season opener on Nov. 5. The lake also will be stocked with thousands of pounds of additional trout throughout the coming winter season. The lake will be closed to the public from Nov. 1 through 4 to stock the trout and prepare for the season. Contact the Pro Shop, (714) 649-9111, for information on the special limited-entry "VIP Fishing Day" on Nov. 4.   

The majority of the stocking will consist of rainbow trout in the 1-to-6-pound class from popular Calaveras Trout Farm, along with some steelhead, brookies and brown trout. A liberal sprinkling of larger-grade fish from 8 to 12 pounds will provide extra excitement. A new lake-record steelhead weighing more than 17 pounds was caught just in March, and it’s possible that record could fall again this season.  

Ultra-light line

The key to catching all species of trout at Irvine Lake is ultra-light line. For bait anglers, it is important never to use anything heavier than 4-pound test clear monofilament. If the fish are acting finicky, or are under heavy pressure during weekend or holiday periods, use 2-pound test line.

Using ultra-light line will mean a few big ones may get away. Set your drag loose and keep your rod tip high to protect your line. The dramatically increased number of bites you will get will make up for any losses.

Casting with small metal lures such as Krocodiles or Kastmasters can be done with 4-pound test clear monofilament line, but tossing small plastics like Berkley Atomic Tubes and Power Trout Worms should be done with 2-pound line. Trollers can use up to 6-pound line when surface trolling with Rapalas or other lures, and 6-pound leaders work well when trolling with lead-core line. 

'Next generation' in dough baits

Bait fishing at Irvine Lake traditionally meant Power Bait, but the recent introduction of the “next generation” in dough baits, Gulp! Trout Dough, has really shaken things up. Exactly what makes fish prefer one color over another is hard to say. Many Irvine regulars have a virtual supermarket selection of bait colors in their tackle box.

Top colors last season in Power Bait were the always-reliable chartreuse, along with yellow, rainbow and white. In the Gulp! Trout Dough, best colors last season were chunky cheese, marshmallow cluster and chunky chartreuse.

Irvine2 Whenever visibility is lessened due to rainy conditions, the "white lightning" color alone or mixed with a contrasting color has been deadly. A favorite trick of the lake regulars is to roll the Power Bait or Gulp! Trout Dough into an elongated worm or grub shape instead of a simple ball.

Another recent innovation is the "Power Mouse," which consists of a "head" that is made with a floating Gulp! Salmon Egg, then add a 2-inch piece of Power Trout Worm or Gulp! Earthworm sticking straight back as the wriggling "tail" on a No. 16 treble hook. Favored colors last season included floating Gulp! Salmon Eggs in white, yellow, chartreuse or pink and contrasting tail colors.

There are times when the fish simply want plain, unadorned nightcrawlers. If the crawlers are very big, cut them in half. Inflating nightcrawlers with air so that they float up off the bottom catches a lot more fish.  

Leaders and hooks

As previously mentioned, bait leaders should be very light. Using the invisible Berkley 100-Percent Fluorocarbon material can give an additional edge. Under clear-water conditions, bait leaders can be in the 12- to 18-inch range. If muddy conditions limit underwater visibility, shorten bait leaders up to no more than 6 or 8 inches in length.

By far the most popular bait rig is an eighth-ounce sliding sinker on the main line, with either a small snap swivel or Carolina-keeper to keep the sinker above the hook. Sometimes the ultra-slow sinking speed of a water-filled "floating sinker" (casting bubble) will tempt finicky trout. 

Under normal conditions, a size No. 16 or No. 18 treble hook works well with Power Bait, or when combining  different baits together on one hook. With live nightcrawlers, a No. 8 or No. 10 single hook works best.

Mini-plastics and more

The last few seasons have seen many anglers forego natural bait completely, instead using the little 3-inch floating Berkley Power Trout Worms and Gulp! Earthworms. These tiny fake wigglers are absolutely deadly when fished in several different ways.

Easiest of the methods is "split-shot style." Simply tie on a No. 10 to No. 14 fine wire hook. Then squeeze on a small splitshot sinker about 18 inches above the line. The secret to this method is again using the lightest possible monofilament line or fluorocarbon. Using 4-pound will work, but the real trick is dropping down to 2-pound test line. The best colors last year were chartreuse or orange peel.

The Gulp! Earthworms or Crawlers have been phenomenal trout producers, and can also be fished just like a real worm under a bobber. Use a regular bobber, and let the bait hang anywhere from 3 to 4 feet under it if the fish are near the surface. A rarely practiced secret trick is to use a "slip bobber" that allows the worm to be suspended at any depth, even in deep water.   

Another hot rigging method is well-known in the bass fishing world, and is called as "drop-shotting". With the sinker on the bottom, a hook is tied between 6 and 36 inches up the line, which allows the floating Power Trout Worm or Gulp! Minnow to appear "suspended" above the bottom.

The Berkley Atomic Tubes or Berkley Atomic Teasers can be fished alone or under a bobber. One of the hottest tips is to take a 2-inch piece of Power Trout Worm or Gulp! in a contrasting color, and use it as a "trailer" on the hook of the Atomic Tube.

The Atomic Teasers come with the trailer already attached. The tiny tubes should also be fished on the lightest possible line. Last year's hottest colors were white/orange and chartreuse/orange, but the best choice changes from day to day.

The new 1-inch Gulp! Micro-Baits were successfully tested at the end of last trout season, and their potential is just beginning to be discovered.   

Trolling lures

Many lures work when trolling for trout at Irvine, but overwhelmingly the most popular is the Countdown (sinking) Rapala. In most cases, the smaller the better with Rapalas, and the little CD-05, CD-03 and CD-01's were especially hot last year.

Irvine3 Some anglers have done well on the steelhead with the Rapala Shad Rap SR-05, X-Rap Shad XRS-06, or Taildancer TD-05 in blue, or hot chub. The Rapala X-Raps in the brand-new smaller XR-04 and XR-06 sizes have been exceptionally good, and got anglers more of the larger trout last season, particularly in the clown, hothead and hot pink colors. At times the fish prefer the wildly erratic action of the J-05 and J-07 Jointed Rapalas. The most popular colors for Rapalas in general are firetiger, fluorescent orange, chartreuse, and brown trout.

Optimal trolling speed ranges from about 1 to 2.1 mph, with steelhead and brown trout sometimes going for faster speeds as high as 2.5 to 3 mph. A key secret is to avoid trolling in a straight line. A series of "S" turns alternately speeds up and slows down the lure, and runs the lure far outside the wake of the boat.     

Scents and flavorings

Many anglers swear by certain scents or flavorings to attract more strikes. Some home-made formulas like licorice and vanilla are good for masking "human scent" that can turn fish off. First and foremost, all anglers should be sure that their hands are completely free of repulsive scents like gasoline, sunscreen, or perfumes.

The new Gulp Alive! Spray was shown to be a phenomenal producer last season. Best scents were the garlic or crawdad flavors, applied to literally everything from trolling lures to live nightcrawlers.   

Historically one of the most productive scents has been the liquid Berkley Trout Dip. Use the green "garlic" flavor on nightcrawlers, the yellow "corn" flavor on Gulp! Trout Dough and Power Bait, along with the red "salmon egg" flavor on trolling and casting lures.

Location, location, location

Irvine4 Shorebound anglers can do well off the point at Trout Island, all along the west shoreline and near the docks. Trollers can also investigate the Santiago Flats, Rocky Point, Sierra Cove and the dam buoy line. 

Above all, be flexible, the fish can really move around a lot. If you don't get any bites within about 45 minutes, and nobody around you is catching anything, move to another location. The staff at the Irvine Lake Pro Shop is happy to give out information on the most productive spots.

The Kid’s Lagoon will also be stocked with trout for the opener and is reserved for families with children age 12 and younger.  


The lake is open seven days a week during trout season. Fishing hours will be from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, until 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The Pro Shop and Snack Bar will open at 5:30 a.m. for help with rigging and awesome breakfast burritos.

Photos (from top): Irvine Lake pro-staffer Perry Green poses briefly with a beautiful steelhead just before stocking it into Irvine Lake last season. Quality trout like this 8.8 pounder make Irvine Lake a popular destination for anglers. One of the world's few remaining Amphi-Cars often makes a showing for Irvine Lake's opening weekend. Nice stringers of trout like this one are typical for Irvine Lake anglers fishing from shore. Credit: Steve Carson

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